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Center-left group claims Democrats' spending package would save families thousands

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks to reporters ahead of House passage of Democrats' Build Back Better Act, which now faces changes in the Senate.
Chip Somodevilla
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., talks to reporters ahead of House passage of Democrats' Build Back Better Act, which now faces changes in the Senate.

Congressional Democrats say their $2 trillion spending plan would have a profound impact on the lives and pocketbooks of most American families, and some left-leaning think tanks are trying to help prove it to voters.

A new report from the center-left think tank Third Way aims to distill the social and climate spending package to show what four of its current provisions would mean for various families across the country.

"So much of the focus on the Build Back Better Act has been on these large topline spending and deficit numbers," Zach Moller, the director of Third Way's economic program, told NPR in an exclusive interview.

After months of tense negotiations, Democrats have been trying to drum up public support for their signature legislation, which passed the House and now faces changes in the Senate.

But polls show voters seem to know more about the bill's price tag than what's actually inside it.

"We recognized that not many people really understand what the bill does for them. Recent public opinion polling [shows] most people think they wouldn't directly benefit from the legislation. So for us, it was — let's spend the time and effort to quantify the major provisions in the bill that we can and put some numbers out there," Moller said.

Third Way's report found that changes to the child tax credit, child care cost caps, expansions to the Affordable Care Act and closing the Medicaid coverage gap could save families thousands each year.

"A two-parent family of four would receive or save up to about $7,400 from these four provisions," said Moller. "A single mother with two kids would receive or save as much as $15,000."

Use the dropdown below to select a state and see what benefits various structures of families would receive, according to data compiled and analyzed by Third Way.

The report analyzes what the benefits would mean for 306 representative families across the country and includes a map for users to toggle back and forth between states and provisions. For each state, a "family" consists of two children ages 2 and 7 (to take into account the age-dependent benefits of the child tax credit and the child care cost caps), and either two married adults or a single mother. The families vary based on the median income for that state's specific household structure.

The health care provisions examined are twofold:

  • the extension of the Affordable Care Act's premium cost caps (caps premiums at a certain percentage of income if insurance is received via healthcare.gov or a state exchange)
  • how the package attempts to provide assistance to states that have not taken up Medicaid expansion under the ACA.
  • The report does not take into account any additional benefits families may receive under the proposed legislation, including universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, housing subsidies and the benefit of a higher earned income tax credit for workers with no children.

    GOP argues scope of bill threatens economy

    Republican lawmakers argue the Democrats' spending package is an unnecessary form of government overreach and that rising prices for things like gas and groceries caused by inflation is the result of previous large-scale spending. They claim inflation will only worsen if Democrats succeed in passing the bill.

    "The only way to keep inflation from getting worse would be to kill the reckless tax and spending spree," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., during a press conference Tuesday.

    But Moller points to the Democrats' spending package as a way for families to combat rising costs.

    "In this era of inflation, I think it's important to realize one of the most important things about the Build Back Better Act is it focuses on costs that working families often worry about, such as child care and health care," he said. "Our analysis reflects the savings that families will have in those areas."

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.
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